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# Generic questions regarding SE exam7

## Generic questions regarding SE exam

(OP)
I happen to live in Georgia when for me to get a PE license I have to take and pass the 16-hour SE exam. I have just a few generic questions that I figured people on this board might be able to answer. I've looked through these boards many times for work, just never signed up to post before.

1. How many hours do people generally put in for studying? I realize everyone is different but I've been studying now for about 2-2.5 months which consists of 1.5-2 hours per night 4 days a week during the weekdays and then 4-6 hours each day on Saturday and Sunday.

2. Is the NCEES practice exam a fair representation of the actual exam? Easier? Harder?

3. Has anyone ever used the ppi2pass book "Structural Engineering Solved Problems, comprehensive practice for the SE and Civil PE exams" by C. Dale Buckner? The problems seem fairly difficult in comparison to NCEES practice problems, the ppi2pass practice exam, and questions in the SERM. I'm just curious if the problems in this book are indicative to those in the exam?

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

I didn't realize that Georgia is like that. I've never heard that you could not merely take the PE in Georgia.

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

#### Quote:

On the one hand I believe it to be far more difficult than it needs to be, indeed, to the point of absurdity. That is, I know many long-in-the tooth practicing structural engineers who have designed, literally, thousands of buildings, yet would have little hope of passing the exam. That's because to do so they would have to put their practice on hold while they studied for it; not a luxury most small businessmen have.

On the other hand, after dealing with the one-too-manyth engineer (or tradesman, even!) from other disciplines who feel entitled to pass themselves off a structural engineers (yes, a more common occurrence than many would expect)...well...I can understand the need to put some space between this discipline and others.

Like a lot of government regs.....it's always hard for me to get behind because you know they will fumble the ball on how it is implemented. (Sort of like gun control....at the risk of kicking open that hornets nest.) Like you, I'd like to see the end of some of the engineers who pass themselves off as structural. But would the proper grandfathering be done? Who knows.

In the case of Georgia, I think their cut off was if you registered before 2010. And for states that do it in the future.....will they even recognize the "old" SE I&II (like I passed)? I just don't trust them to handle all that right.

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

WARose,

Funny you mention the grandfathering issue. I live in Alaska and just recently they implemented requirements that required an SE to stamp some project types. With this they rolled out a grandfathering program. A young project manager in our office who had an architectural engineering degree and had started with the company as a structural engineer applied for grandfather status. This individual had been licensed as a PE (failed the exam twice) less than 5 years and had been a PM the entire time they were licensed as a PE. That's right, they hadn't practiced engineering since passing the initial PE test. Well, now the individual is a licensed SE in the state of Alaska.

Just thinking about it makes me mad. That title wasn't earned but yet they can market themselves just like those who sat and passed the 16 hour exam or those that spent years learning the craft for which the grandfathering program was intended.

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

Eh, I'd be a little mad but not as much if I consider that any of those cases are likely outweighed significantly by other engineers who have many years experience designing structures and need the grandfathering to avoid having to sit through the SE exam. I'm definitely a proponent of the SE exam and or some sort of title or license restriction but it only makes sense if reasonable grandfathering exists and grandfathering will ultimately allow some watering down of the license.

Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)
American Concrete Industries

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

Neither the PE nor the SE licenses prevents incompetent engineers (or laymen) from practicing engineering. They simply provide a legal path to follow if one is found guilty of practicing engineering without the minimum credentials. One of the basic principles of possessing either license is that you should not practice outside your area of competence. So in some sense, an SE license is redundant. If you are a PE specializing in structural, you should not practice engineering outside of the structural realm, SE licensed or not. In my opinion, an SE license is an attempt to weed out those who are competent structural engineers but not necessarily well versed in special areas of structural design (i.e. seismic design).

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

Think grandfathering is important for people with significant amounts of experience. That said, am in favor of the SE at least for some structures. Don't know that I'd go as far as some states that require it for all structural work, but I think requiring it for high rise work or higher Risk Category work is probably appropriate, especially in areas with significant threat of high intensity events like earthquakes or hurricanes. The percentage of SEs I've interacted with that didn't grasp some of the finer points is significantly lower than PEs (though PE percentage is still pretty low, this is not intended to disparage PEs). Don't know if that's dumb luck, self selection, or the SE exam pass rates being significantly lower than the PE exam.

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

WARose, I'm with you.

Motorcity,

Regarding your comment, "One of the basic principles of possessing either license is that you should not practice outside your area of competence. So in some sense, an SE license is redundant. If you are a PE specializing in structural, you should not practice engineering outside of the structural realm, SE licensed or not."

Well, therein lies the rub. I often encounter other engineers passing themselves off as structural. And let me immediately follow up by saying I'm not talking about those who may have studied a different discipline but then methodically transitioned over to structural and make their living in it. What I'm referring to are, for example:

• The electrical engineer who told me a highway sign truss was "over-designed"
• A construction foreman who told me where to locate a sump pit to avoid "putting moment on it"
• A project manager who speculated how odd it was that the flange of a concrete inverted T beam was oriented that way because "the strength is in the other direction" (he didn't even realize it was a T-beam)
• Another sparky who informed me that "rebar has ridges on it"
• A PM who told me structural engineers over-design everything
• A PM who thought that a foot of soil over a 10' wide passageway would "arch over it"
• Yet another sparky who told me that it was more conservative to assume a high allowable soil bearing pressure for a footing...ya know, 'cause it's *higher*. (Not for the design of the footing, mind you, but for the soil itself.)
• The superintendent who put extra reinforcing steel into concrete to "strengthen it"...beyond it's ductile limit, unfortunately...

• And believe me, I could go on. But the point is that many of the above were licensed PE's. I assume because structural elements are visible, tangible and we all have them in our homes some engineers therefore feel entitled to try to interject themselves into structural decision-making in materially significant ways. Anyway, I relay all of that simply as anecdotal evidence to support my suspicion that if engineers actually stuck to their discipline the SE license would have never come into being.

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

Archie264,I got a chuckle from some of the examples you cited. Although, one might argue that those individuals offering verbal advice is not practicing engineering (or at least it is vastly different than putting those concepts on paper and sealing it), but that's a debate for another day.

"my suspicion that if engineers actually stuck to their discipline the SE license would have never come into being."
I agree 100%. But lets not kid ourselves, the mere existence of an SE license does not fix or prevent that problem. To go one step further, practicing outside your area of competence occurs in all disciplines. So, do we need an "EE", "ME", "CE" licenses too?

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

MotorCity, I agree, but let me also state that I first watered down my examples and then went back and removed some comments I had made that I thought were too uncharitable. So, without repeating that mistake let me simply say that my experiences in this realm go well beyond simply offhand comments by some. Unfortunately I've encountered a number of PE's who offered themselves up as structural engineers, despite not being such. [Resisting temptation to elaborate.]

Do we need separate EE, ME, CE, etc. licenses? I don't know but I wouldn't object to it. In fact, since the exams are taken in specific disciplines it would make some degree of sense to do so. I suspect it won't happen if for no other reason than that in manufacturing there can be some degree of cross-pollination between mechanical and electrical. That's for them to sort out, I suppose, but I just get frustrated when other disciplines try to cross-pollinate into structural.

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

archie, you're last example is the one thing rebar inspectors have the worse time explaining. it seems like every contractor thinks its in the bible somewhere that they can always put more rebar or upsize rebar from the design.

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

Quick Question, I have the 6th edition of the AASHTO Bridge Design Spec, and the SE calls for the 7th. Will I be OK going in with the 6th? I am taking the buildings exams.

Thank!!

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

I wouldn't. A good portion of your morning is still AASHTO questions so that's quite a handicap having the older version. The changes between 6th and 7th were somewhat significant for concrete if I recall.

You can purchase a "SE exam" version of AASHTO that is specific to the exam and significantly cheaper than the full version.

Ian Riley, PE, SE
Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

I had a hard copy of the AASHTO 6th and an electronic copy of 7th.

So I took the cheap way out and marked up the 6th edition with all the revisions.

It took a long time (especially in the concrete section as TME mentions). I don't recommend it.

But, that said, most questions except concrete did not come from the revisions.

----
The name is a long story -- just call me Lo.

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

Lomarandil, do you know where to get an electric copy of the 7th edition? My work is digging thier heals in about spending the cash for a book I'll use once and I just can't afford the new edition copy so I may have to take the more laborious rout as well.

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

My 2 cents.

I had an older version the 2nd time I took the lateral. I passed. I also didn't concentrate on the bridge questions because I'm not familiar with that code. I worked the non-AASHTO questions first and then tried to figure out the bridge ones.

I think 20% of the morning is bridge or 8 questions. It's not realistic that all 8 would be affected by code changes from one edition to the next.

If we were talking AISC or ACI you'd obviously want the most current. But with AASHTO you should be fine.

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

McH, my electronic copy was legitimate from the AASHTO store (company transitioning to PDF codes). It might be a little cheaper than the hard copy, but probably not enough to convince your company.

The SE is an investment you are making in your career -- you might need to shell out for it yourself.

You can always check with friends from university who may have landed in the bridge world and have a copy you could borrow.

----
The name is a long story -- just call me Lo.

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

Depending on next years codes you may also be able to resell it to another engineer (or alternatively buy it from another engineer on the cheap).

Ian Riley, PE, SE
Professional Engineer (ME, NH, MA) Structural Engineer (IL)

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

Thank you all for the advise! I will look into the electronic version from AASHTO.

### RE: Generic questions regarding SE exam

Be aware there are 2 "levels" of electronic versions of the AASHTO Bridge Design spec. One is a just a basic text .pdf; the other has hyperlinks throughout and is significantly more expensive.

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